Ordinary People

Ordinary People Free Essay


The essay is a critical examination of the movie ‘Ordinary People’ released back in 1980 starring Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland, Timothy Hutton, Judd Hirsch, and Elizabeth McGovern. The movie story line centers on the accidental passing away of the older son; the Jarretts an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among themselves and the traumatized younger son who attempted to commit suicide. The movie has been hailed to be of help in the therapeutic treatment of clients suffering from various problems especially trauma and stress related disorders.

In the movie, Conrad is just back to their family home from a psychiatric healthcare where he spent four good months. Dr. Berger, a psychiatrist is responsible for helping the young man address issues that emerged from an accident during sailing that left his elder brother death. Calvin, the father of the young man is trying although in an awkward manner to coup up with the situation and establishes a better relationship with his family. Beth, the mother has not yet accepted the loss of her son. It seems the mother loved the elder son more than Conrad. This creates a problem in the family where the younger son feels neglected by his own mother.

According to the video ordinary people produced by Schwarz, 1980 Beth struggles to maintain a face that shows nothing is happening in the family. In one occasion during a party, she overheard her husbanding telling a friend about Conrad seeing a psychiatrist. On their way home Beth rebukes her husband for revealing such a secret which according to her opt to be a private family matter. It is evident that through Conrad’s engagement with DR. Berger he is capable of handling his feelings as well as checking his behaviors. He later dates Jeannine. The young man changes and become positive about everything in life. The death of Karen a friend of Conrad from the hospital threatened to work against the efforts and achievement met. Although the young man worked hard in trying to reconnect with the rest of the family and friends, he ensures that her mother, as well as other people, does not get close to him. The efforts made by his mother to show love and care are met with harsh words as she is rebuffed.

The son and mother were always in arguments while the father played a part of refereeing. The young man recounts the events in the past for instance not being visited by his mother while he was in hospital. He makes it known that his hatred towards her is founded on solid facts. It is evident that Conrad eventually managed to handle post-traumatic stress related to the death of Buck, his elder brother. The doctor manages to convince him to accept his mother the way she is. His father is also assisted and was within seeing his son apologizing and embraces his mother who seems to be frozen but manages too fight and suppress the sentiments. Conrad father notices this and then asks her if indeed she is capable of loving others. He later informs her that he may not be in a position to love her; this prompted her going upstairs and prepared to leave the family for good.

Conrad later learns that his mother has left which made him blame himself. This prompted his father to rebuke him for blaming himself but later withdrew the statement regretting losing his tempers. The movie ends with the two shown to have reached a common ground and embraced each other.

Social networks of relationship ties and alliances

It is worth noting that all families have certain types of networks, relationship ties and alliances with each other. For those individuals who are professional in dealing with issues relating to individual’s ranging from post-traumatic depression to mental disorder need to fully understand this types of connections. In certain cases the relationship is not only exhibited between and among family members but also with friends and other distance relatives.

For the family of there are mixed kind of social network of relationship and ties. For the two brothers, it is evident that they indeed had a number of friends. Ideally, Buck who lost his life as a result of an accident during sailing has been painted to be an outgoing person. This obviously translates to the fact that he had several friends to go out with. Similarly, he had a strong bond with his younger brother Conrad. If there were no ties between the two, then in the first place the two could not have gone sailing together. Similarly, the death of Buck an elder brother of Conrad caused the later to be traumatized, not only because he felt guilty to the cause of the death but for losing not only a brother but a close friend whom he could do most of the things with.

On the other hand, his mother, Beth seemed have weak social network and ties with the rest of the family members apart from the dead son, Buck. In the beginning of the movie, audiences are made to understand that she loved Buck more than even her younger son Conrad; least to mention her husband Calvin. There are a number of argument brought forth to support this view. For instance, Conrad, when he engaged in an argument with her in, made the audience to understand that she did not pay him a visit while he was in the hospital for four good months. The former claimed that if it were Buck who was in the hospital, then she could have probably expressed more affection and shown concern. This implies that Beth had an alliance with her elder son and no one else. Additionally, towards the end of the movie, when both Beth and Conrad seem to show understanding and embraced each other, she struggled to hide her fears and this is noticed by her husband who bluntly asks her if she can be capable of loving other people (Schwary, 1980). Although one might see Beth as having a weaker social network, her interaction with some individuals especially when she engaged in playing golf paint another picture to the scenario. However, this can be argued as a way of concealing the happening in her family.

It is also of paramount significance to critically look into the relationship between Conrad and his doctor. Initially, it is evident that the young man felt cold and did not wish o open up and share vital information with the doctor. However, through his knowledge, the doctor managed to create a relationship with the young man that eventually made him open up and share his thought. Conrad through the assistance of the doctor managed to handle his emotions. On the same line of thinking, after showing signs of recovery from depression he started dating a kind and nonjudgmental girl from his school choir. The news of Karen death seemed to threaten Conrad recovery initiatives. All this tell us that he had stronger social skills and network. This can be exemplified by the fact that he made friends (Karen) within a period of four months.

Additionally, Beth is very secretive and does not want anything happening in the sphere of their family to be shared with non-family members. This is clearly depicted when she rebuked her husband after hearing him confide in a friend that their son, Conrad was seeing a psychiatrist. Similarly, Beth had a weak heart in my own view towards other and for that reason even her own son fears if he could be forgiven for what he did. Conrad said, "Christ, she fired the goddamned maid because she couldn't dust the living room right," he intended to say."" (Schwary, 1980). Although were are made to understand that Mr. Calvin had problems and was working towards reconnecting with his family, audiences are made to view him as an individual who showed concerned and love to his children without biases. The desire of the father to always support the young man and the mother showing more affection to Buck leaves us with the view that there were incline alliances in the family. It is worth mentioning that the type of social network, ties, and alliances within and without any family can work for or against attainment of solutions to problems at hand.

Roles played by different family members

It is indeed a fact that each and every family member has an obligation towards others and to themselves. When the roles and responsibilities are carried out in a balanced and open manner then every member will feel cared for and life will be enjoyable. In cases where problems seem to be apparent, efforts of all family members to show support is of great significance especially for the one being troubled to be treated in a manner that he or she feels totally accepted and forgiven. This guarantees quick recovery from feeling or emotion of self-blame, depression among other.

One of the notable individuals who has played a number of roles is Conrad. He managed to date Jeannine. He managed to help her come out of the problem she was facing. In the long run, both end up benefiting from the relationship. Before the death of Buck, the two brothers were close to each other, hence Conrad played his role of in offering his elder brother companion and vice versa. However, Conrad fails to play the role as a child toward his mother; he openly criticized and blamed her. Even in situations where his mother offered to show love and affection, he buffed her off.

Mr. Calvin together with the rest of his family after taking the role of burying his son realizes that his family; wife and younger son are in logger heads. He takes the responsibility of trying to create peace between the two and reconnects with each of them. Additionally, it is not easy arriving at a conclusion of taking one child into a psychiatric hospital. However, Calvin did this and afterward hired a psychiatrist to assist his son some to terms with what transpired. According to Conrad, Calvin showed love to both him and his late brother Buck, this indeed is one role that a father opts to take. However, he fails to show love and endurance towards his wife (Schwary, 1980).

On the other hand, in the beginning of the movie, Beth a wife is shown to be playing her role as a mother very well. She is in the kitchen preparing breakfast to the family. She also showed affection towards his son Buck; however, he failed to even visit the younger son while in the hospital. Additionally, she takes the responsibility of trying to protect the family. She rebuked her husband when he tells a friend about their son seeing a psychiatrist. It is apparent that together with her husband they arrived at a conclusion of assisting their son recover from stress related to the death of his elder brother.

With regards to the rules broken by the son, Conrad, he constantly blamed himself for the death of his brother and did not respect her mother. The consequences were many. He was not visited while in the hospital. Additionally, while at home, he was always in conflict with his mother. This prolonged the time in which for him to completely get over the post traumatic depression relating to the death of Buck.

Analysis of communication and relationship patterns

The relationship as previously stated is mixed and have a varying degree of warmth. Initially, Conrad was not able too engage in an open conversation with the doctor. However after the later managed to create an environment in which the former felt accepted, he opened up and shared. This can be portrayed by the statement, "I've heard this all before," said Conrad. "That doesn't make it any less true," said his therapist.

The communication between the son and the mother was full of argument and misunderstanding. There was no time when the two shared a moment of understanding. This indeed played a part in making the young man take long before receiving what he deserved to get over his problems. His father although tried to reconnect with his family used harsh tone towards family members. He was in most cases judgmental towards them, for instance, he asked his wife after she reconciles with their son if indeed she was capable of loving anyone.

With regards to what really happened, seeing one's brother dead especially when you were with him is indeed traumatizing. His woes were even made worse by his mother who openly criticized Conrad. When the mother left, I hypothesize that the son and his father will have an easy time and enjoy live but only for a shorter period of time. They both need Beth to continue with the responsibility of a mother and wife. This would be healthy for the existence of the whole family and live to the fullest without regret.

Family’s strengths and resources

The most important strength the family has is the ability of the father to show a willingness to see to it that the family is reunited and adequately reconnected. Additionally, the family class places it in a better financial position to hire a personal doctor to help not only Conrad but also Mr. Calvin to come to terms with the loss of one of their family members. On the same note, Conrad although initially seemed to be resistant is willing to change. This is shown when he opened up and shared significant information with his doctor. Eventually he was able to forgive his mother and embraced each other. Lastly and more importantly, Calvin was also willing to learn. This was a positive way in ensuring that the family will enjoy living without stress in the future (Schwary, 1980).

Setting goals for the family

In case the family came for me to be provided with professional help; I would first try to clearly establish the problems facing each of them. From there I will then engage them in developing goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic and time bound. Among the goal that I would set for the family include; achieving effective communication full of understanding, getting out of the depression associated with losing a loved one, curbing tempers and emotion, change attitude towards others, accepting family members the way they are and finally acquiring knowledge for each member to be a therapist to themselves.

To achieve this, I will actively engage all of the family members and deal with each and every individual in different session. This will defiantly be done by following a structured plan which will ensure that no step in counseling is missed. According to the film, the problem that family is facing is attributed to the death of Buck, there elder son. Among the goals the doctor set for the family are almost similar to what I have proposed; for instance, getting out of depression associated with the death of Buck, forging each other and understanding family members.


From the review of the movie, it is apparent that it adequately covers problems associated with the family losing their son, Buck. The family members played varying roles, exhibited divergent social network, ties and alliances. Conrad had a poor relationship with his mother. The doctor did played a major role in helping the young man recover although the existing condition within the family hampered quick recovery of the client. In case I was to be approached by the family to be assisted, I would engage them actively before setting goads that are ‘SMART’.

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